How to Translate Documents: A Simple Guide

Adedamola Ojedokun
02 Aug 2023

7 min. read


Whether you're a member of a company expanding into new markets or an individual communicating across language barriers, document translation is an inevitable task.

In this article, we will explore how to translate documents, including common issues to avoid when translating a document, so that you can easily connect with a broader audience.

Pro tip: To enhance productivity, accuracy, and cost efficiency of business document translation, use a professional localization platform – Centus. Learn more.

How to translate a document using Google Translate

Apart from words and phrases, Google Translate can also translate an entire document, including plain text and rich text documents, Microsoft Word documents, HTML, and even PDFs.

Here’s how to translate an entire document using Google Translate:

  1. Go to Google Translate
  2. Click Documents how to translate a document using google translate
  3. Click Browse to find the file that you want to translate on your hard drive
  4. Select the document’s language
  5. Select the target language
  6. Click Translate

Note that Google Translate is not perfectly accurate.

How to translate a document using DeepL

Follow these steps to translate a document with DeepL:

  1. Open the DeepL app or the DeepL website
  2. In the menu, click Translate files how to translate a document using Deepl
  3. Select the document you want to translate
  4. Select the target language
  5. In the menu, click Translate

You can also drag and drop a document into the DeepL translator window to translate it. The file types that DeepL can translate are Word (.docx), PowerPoint (.pptx), PDF (.pdf), and text (.txt). The platform supports different file sizes depending on the file formats and Deepl is more accurate than Google.

How to translate a document using ChatGPT

ChatGPT is increasingly becoming an indispensable AI-driven tool for document translation. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Open the ChatGPT app or the ChatGPT website
  2. In the menu, click Translate
  3. Paste the text that you want to translate into the text box
  4. Select the target language
  5. Click the Translate button how to translate a document with ChatGPT translator

You can also upload a document to the ChatGPT translator to translate it.

How to translate a document using Microsoft Word

You can easily translate an entire document using Microsoft Word itself. Note, however, that the document should be in the .docx format.

To translate a document follow these steps:

  1. Open the DOCX document in Microsoft Word
  2. Click Review > Translate > Translate Document
  3. In the menu that opens, choose the target language
  4. Click Translate
  5. In the newly created documents, click the Save icon how to translate a docx document

How to translate a scanned document

While it is easy to translate text files, the translation of scanned documents is much tricker.

To avoid layout and character recognition issues, first use OCR to extract the text from the scanned document. It goes like this:

Extract the text from the scanned document

There are multiple OCR tools for extracting text from documents. However, you can use the free Microsoft OneNote's OCR feature.

Follow these steps to extract the text from the scanned document:

  1. In OneNote, select the Insert tab
  2. Click File Printout to extract the text how to translate a scanned pdf document
  3. Right-click the document once it has been added
  4. Click Copy Text from This Page of the Printout
  5. Paste the text into a Word document
  6. To translate your file, follow the process detailed in the first section of the article.

The Word document can also be uploaded to Google Drive, opened in Google Docs, and then translated as shown above.

How to choose the right approach for document translation

You need to use the right translation approach when translating documents. This will ensure accuracy, clarity, and effectiveness in expressing your intended message. There are two main approaches to consider: machine translation and human translation.

Machine translation (MT)

This involves the use of algorithms and artificial intelligence to automatically translate text from one language to another. It has made great progress in recent years as a result of neural machine translation models.


  • It is ideal for time-sensitive translation projects since it can process huge amounts of text quickly.
  • MT is usually less expensive, especially for simpler documents or first drafts.
  • MT tools are easily available, allowing you to translate documents whenever and wherever you want.


  • Machine translation may struggle with context, idioms, and subtle language nuances, thereby leading to errors or misinterpretations.
  • Automated systems may lack the specialized expertise required for particular specific or technical content.
  • It may miss cultural nuances, necessitating further editing to ensure the translated document connects with the target audience.

Human translation

Human translation involves using professional translators who are fluent in both the source and target languages. The translators have linguistic knowledge, cultural comprehension, and subject-matter expertise in the target language.


  • Human translators understand language nuances, cultural nuances, and idiomatic expressions, resulting in exact and contextually appropriate translations.
  • Human translators with subject matter experience can offer accurate translations that adhere to industry standards for technical or specialized texts.
  • Professional translators usually adopt stringent quality control procedures, such as proofreading and editing, to ensure high-quality translations.


  • Human translation takes longer than machine translation, especially for lengthy or complex documents.
  • It is generally more expensive, especially for large-scale projects or languages with limited resources.
  • Different translators may interpret and translate the same document differently, resulting in inconsistencies in style or terminology.

Consider the type of your document, its intended purpose, and the level of accuracy required when deciding on the translation approach to adopt. Human translation is usually advised for crucial and sensitive documents, such as legal contracts or marketing campaigns, to ensure clarity and cultural adaptability.

Machine translation, on the other hand, can provide a cost-effective starting point for short and informal translations or preliminary drafts.

In some situations, combining machine translation with human editing and proofreading might be beneficial. This method leverages the speed of machine translation while ensuring the translated document meets the specified quality criteria.

Don’t miss our detailed comparison of human and machine translation.

Common document translation pitfalls

There are several pitfalls that you need to know about and avoid when translating documents. Ignoring them can lead to mistakes, misinterpretations, and an overall poor translation quality.

Broken layout and formatting

The disruption of the original layout and formatting is one of the most common concerns in document translation. The translated document may not fit properly within the allocated space, resulting in a disconnected and unprofessional outcome.

Solution: To maintain the layout and formatting of the original content as closely as possible, use professional translation tools rather than their free counterparts.

Lack of cultural and linguistic understanding

Understanding cultural nuances and linguistic intricacies is crucial for good translation because language is firmly rooted in culture. Misinterpretations or improper language choices might result from a lack of cultural and linguistic awareness.

Solution: Hire translators who are closely familiar with the cultural environment in which the translation will be consumed.

Grammar and syntax errors

Grammar and syntax are important to maintaining a document's clarity and consistency. An inadequate grasp of the syntax and sentence structure of the target language can lead to confusing and awkward translations.

Solution: Hire certified translators with a solid grasp of the target language’s grammar and syntax norms.

Inconsistent terminology and style

Consistency is essential when translating documents. Inconsistencies in vocabulary and style can make a document appear unprofessional and confuse readers. Translators should create and follow uniform terminology and style rules throughout the translation process.

Solution: The use of glossaries, style guides, and translation memories can assist in maintaining consistency across multiple document translation projects.

Failure to capture the intended meaning

It is not enough to simply replace words in one language with their equivalents in another. It is important to understand the intended meaning behind the words and accurately represent it in the target language to avoid miscommunications

Solution: Ensure your translators have enough time to understand the context, purpose, and message of the original content.

How to translate business documents

You can leverage different tools and resources available on the internet to translate business documents online. One such tool is Centus. It allows you to upload documents and track the progress of the translation process. Centus dashboard Here's a step-by-step guide on how you can use Centus to translate business documents online:

  • Create an account and download the free Centus trial.
  • Upload your document. You can upload documents in different formats, including PDF, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
  • Select the language you want to translate the document into.
  • Track the progress of the translation and provide feedback to the translators when necessary.
  • Download the translated document once the translation is complete. You can also save the translated document to your Centus account so that you can access it later.

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